Graphic by Adam Kesner

This year has certainly been full of surprises and the occasional knock in the face. Filling out this list are several of our hometown favorites — the always inspiring and intriguing Lady Lamb the BeekeeperEx-Cops melodically brilliant first album, and the beautiful, silky sound of Autre Ne Veut. From the emotionally commanding, yet sparse sound of Majical Cloudz and Daughter to the genius disco fusion of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and dazzling synths of Shout Out Louds’ Optica, the first half of 2013 has provided endless opportunities to expand our sonic palates.

Whether it’s the triumphant return of Vampire Weekend after a less engaging sophomore release or the almost frighteningly raw power of Savages’ debut effort, 2013 has reminded us that music has the power to influence and deconstruct the idea of the sound we “love” and turn that into something different entirely. The albums below shocked us, awed us, and reminded us why we do what we do. — Lauren McKinney

Honorable Mention: Palma Violets – 180

palma violets

With their dirty guitars, guttural yells, and extremely catchy hooks, Palma Violets has become a front-runner for our next favorite throwback British rock band. 180 maintains some stellar lo-fi swagger while dolling out 3 minute gem after pop gem, and I’m still convinced that “Best of Friends” is the song of the summer. — Hannah Angst


15. Autre Ne Vuet – Anxiety

autre ne veut

R&B is going in brave and bold new directions, as artists like Rhye and Frank Ocean take the genre to unbelievable heights. No one, however, has been as liberally creative with the smooth sounds of R&B than Autre Ne Veut, who combines Arthur Ashin’s silken voice with bombastic and intertwining sounds. With horns blaring in and out and synths slinking, Anxiety is a record that absolutely and electrically lives up to its name, promising amazing things to come from Autre Ne Veut. — Hannah Angst


14. ON AN ON – Give In


Though Give In is On An On’s official first release, members Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci, and Ryne Estwing have been collaborating musically (formerly in Scattered Trees) for nearly ten years. This energetic debut presents their tangibly evolved craft. Too exuberant to be called dream pop, yet missing the cacophony of garage rock, Give In is grounded in its active melodies and swathed in its atmospheric, sonic cushions. The interchange between male and female vocals, often in a mysterious middle falsetto range, seamlessly links each song to the next, displaying the polished quality of this splendid debut. — Camellia Hartman


13. Ex Cops – True Hallucinations


There’s something about Ex Cops that seemed dangerously special to me when Dan Shapiro played me the demos he and lead singers/primary songwriters Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun recorded a few years back in their old apartment. They were rough, but the melodic structure was gorgeous. As time passed, those demos landed Ex Cops a deal with Other Music (a subsidiary of Fat Possum) and allowed them to enter the studio with sonic heavyweights Guy Benny and John Siket (PhishSonic YouthMedeski Martin & Wood), creating what would become their smashing debut True Hallucinations. The record is truly amazing, and I’m not just talking about the Shappy “meedles” and “meedly-mees” executed by guitarist Kai Kennedy. The compositions are brilliant, and the production brainchild of Benny & Siket worked wonders on expanding the arrangements to their full potential. I’m especially fond of “Broken Chinese Chairz” and “Spring Break (Happy Birthday)”, but recently, I’m beginning to get down with “Separator” as well. — Brian Cherchiglia


12. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator

majical cloudz

I’ve always admired artists who can use very little to create something enormously impactful — Perfume Genius’ “Take Me Home”, The Antlers’ “Epilogue” and Panda Bear’s “Young Prayer” are just a few examples. “Bugs Don’t Buzz” off of Majical Cloudz’ new LP, Impersonator, creates an emotionally commanding soundscape with little more than basic keyboard chords, vocal loops, infrequent deep bass hits, and a startlingly strong voice. This project is the brainchild of Devon Welsh, a Montreal based musician who teamed up with Matthew Otto, another Canadian musician, in order to produce and polish his solo material. The sparse instrumentation provides room for Welsh’s already booming voice to soar, expressively delivering lyrical gems such as, “If life could be forever one instant/ would it be the moment you met me/ no my love.” The careful construction of the album as a whole, and “Bugs Don’t Buzz” in particular, is proof of Welsh’s extremely strong songwriting prowess. In recent interviews, Welsh explains that he spent years producing dozens of tracks in the basement of his father’s home before even releasing anything as Majical CloudzImpersonator is the groundbreaking culmination of a multi-year search for a specific sound. The subject matter, which is relatable and frighteningly real, matches the dark and somber sounds perfectly. — Brendan Principato


11. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze


With it’s washed out guitars, spacious meandering and perfectly delivered vocals, Wakin On a Pretty Daze is shaping up to be the record that Kurt Vile is most remembered for. While he’s always trafficked in sunny jamming and relaxed guitar wizardry, his new record takes it to a new level of mastery. Vile’s greatest strength, however, is his lyrical content, which rolls out as slowly and nonchalantly as the music, but always packs a wallop. — Hannah Angst


10. Savages – Silence Yourself


Raw power, explosive creativity, steely intensity — I could go on for hours coming up with adjectives that can’t even attempt to describe the pure electric thrill of listening to Silence YourselfSavages announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with the moment they released “Husbands” last year, but even then, no one knew exactly what captivating artists they would be. While taking the basic framework and sound of British post-punk, harkening back to the likes of Gang of Four, PiL and Joy Division (truly the highest musical complement I can give), Savages have brought their own style and sonic capabilities, moving the sound to the modern age. Silence Yourself is the definition of a fully formed debut record, yet there is still a path laid out that will allow them to continue to grow. It’s the rarest of albums, one that sounds like a career defining masterpiece, while still making you hungry for the next steps in the life of the band. –Hannah Angst


9. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk

For the band that’s ostensibly responsible for the glut of electronic music clogging the cultural zeitgeist, Daft Punk threw everyone a curve ball with Random Access Memories. Taking the idea of memories to heart, the duo created a convincing, infinitely listenable pastiche of the music they grew up listening to and were influenced by. In typical Daft Punk fashion, it’s groovy, creative, futuristic and nostalgic all at the same time. More likely than not, this sound will also rule the radio for the next few years. Perhaps the most impressive feat of RAM, though, is that the album took one of the few forms of pop music still reviled in many corners of the music world and made it vital again. Thanks to Daft Punk, disco is having a comeback, and we couldn’t be more ready to get down. –Hannah Angst


8. Daughter – If You Leave


With their first full-length album, If You Leave, London trio Daughter painted images of unrequited love, betrayal and crisis. This hauntingly beautiful album makes you want to close your eyes and live in the world that Elena Tonra’s gentle vocals create, even if the landscape is filled with sorrow and longing. Each track flows into the other lyrically and acoustically, creating an album that sounds best when listened to as a whole. If nothing else, (and luckily there are a lot of other things) If You Leave is this year’s best and brightest break up album. — Marielle Clark


7. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

the national

Proving that they really are in a league of their own, The National once again cut open their heart and bled it dry into thirteen tracks of pure bliss with Trouble Will Find Me. Whether burning a torch for troubles they can’t seem to shake or yearning for even the sketch of a more optimistic horizon, Matt Berringer and company have rarely sounded so heartbreakingly sincere. With a masterfully crafted atmosphere of resonating yet direct melancholy to accompany their earnest songwriting, The National have pieced together a body of work that not only burrows itself deep beneath the surface, but resiliently holds itself firmly in the listeners consciousness for days on end. — Mal Foster


6. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century…


When a band gets likened to The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed, you know they’re doing something right. That comparison, though, can also be a curse or euphemism for “cover band that takes liberties” — the Agoura Hills. San Francisco-based Foxygen has faced this dilemma since their first live performance. Their new album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, proves that they won’t shy away from these roots in classic rock. For example, “Shuggie” seemingly bounces around influences, going from sounding like The Beatles to resembling the harsh scream of Mick Jagger, an element that’s also particularly strong in the title track. Foxygen’s unsettled and meandering style allows them to intermix elements and create their own permeating sound. Just listen to “Shuggie” at 2:30 where they abruptly insert 10 seconds of awesomely unfitting psychedelic funk into a decidedly indie track. — Peter Ianelli


5. Shout Out Louds – Optica

shout out louds

Though it took me 12 years, I’ve finally been won over by Shout Out Louds.  Optica, the Swedish band’s fourth studio album, is an absolute gem. Song after song, the band crafts infectious melodies filled with dazzling synth, funky bass lines, and Adam Olenius’ booming vocals. While it wasn’t as well received by blogs as I would have expected, Optica is hands down one of my favorite albums of the year. Lucky for us, we got to spend some time with the band when we recorded a Buzzsession for their tracks “Illusions” and “Burn”, both of which you can watch here. — Eric Weiner


4. Caveman – Caveman


Individually, the members of Caveman have close to ten years of outside experience in the New York music scene, a point made fully visible by their self-titled sophomore album. Caveman expresses and represents the band’s seasoned indie past, but has a more expansive and ambitious goal in mind. Filled with long-winded and rambling synths and electric guitars, their sound more closely resembles that of favorite M83. These, along with the lingering harmonies of vocalist Matthew Iwanusa, make for an enormous and airy sound not dominated by just one band member. Be sure you catch them on their US tour going on now with Rogue Wave and this Fall with Ra Ra Riot. — Peter Ianelli


3. Lady Lamb The Beekeeper – Ripely Pine


After six years of feeding us self-released home recordings and intoxicating live shows, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper released her first studio record in February to swarms of starving fans. After taking a year to meticulously craft the songs into their fully realized forms, Ripely Pine bestowed upon us both unaffected and re-imagined Lady Lamb the Beekeeper classics and one entirely new song (“Rooftop”), all presented in a stunning, cinematic fashion. Having captured our attention years ago with her knack for dark, poetic romanticism and bare-bones grit, she gave some songs a more full-bodied sound teeming with choral elements, full string sections and a full band, and left some of the tracks mostly untouched. This sparseness allows us to feel the full effect of her raw vocals and powerful imagery. For me, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s potency has always existed within the in-betweens: powerful but vulnerable, violent but tender, modest but ravishing. Ripely Pine delivers the feast we had been pining for all along. — Charity Painter


2. Local Natives – Hummingbird


It’s difficult to believe that Hummingbird is only Local Natives’ sophomore release. Three long years after they became indie darlings with Gorilla Manor, the band returned with an album that  somehow captured the raw emotions of their debut while refining just about every aspect of their sound. Hummingbird is stunning — the entire album flows flawlessly and works both as a continuous listen or a one off with singles like “Breakers” and “Heavy Feet”.  For those of us who doubted their ability to match Gorilla Manor, man do we look bad. — Eric Weiner


1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires…

vampire weekend

There are people out there who love to hate, particularly when it comes to critiquing someone’s music taste. Sure, we make jokes about Nickelback or Creed here on the site, but we’d still like to think of ourselves as relatively non-judgmental. Earlier this year, with Vampire Weekend’s third studio release on the horizon, the haters were out in full force, and admitting any excitement for what was in store almost certainly meant looks or annoying comments. All I have to say about that is, “Fuck all you haters out there,” and it appears Vampire Weekend was thinking the same thing.

With Modern Vampires Of The City, they went from being a prime example of mainstream-appealing indie that hipsters would scoff at to a completely legitimate band that deserves every ounce of success they’ve had. We love it, Pitchfork loves it, Consequence of Sound loves it, Rolling Stone loves it, your mom loves it, your girlfriend loves it, and you love it. This record is amazingly fun and, dare I say, better than their self-titled debut. — Eric Weiner


  • Can’t wait! Your 2012 one was most excellent.

  • Eric Weiner

    Refresh coming soon!

  • Where is Cage The Elephant????

    You need to refresh itttttttttttt. Melophobia deserves to be on this list!

  • Kyle

    Melophobia should be here somewhere

  • Dre

    Little Green Cars debut album “Absolute Zero” is def a winner as well.

  • Strangeman

    Original listing! GG!

  • God

    I don’t think you listened to Shaking the Habitual, because if you did you would put it high above all this other garbage.

  • God


  • Cam Underhill

    Gotta love Hummingbird! Fantastic Album. I wasn’t impressed by the new Daft Punk though

Thanks Squarespace!